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tv   Book Discussion on Doing the Best I Can  CSPAN  May 10, 2015 1:00pm-1:46pm EDT

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calls outside indication the most important civil rights challenge of our time and expects to keep working on that. >> host: that speech goes back to her own roots the importance of education with those children of the great migration and on to her generation. so that would be a wonderful cause for her to maintain. some people say she should get in politics. something about hillary clinton. do you see any chance michelle obama would run for political office? >> guest: not only has she shade said no, but barack obama was asked, what if you heard that your wife was in politics? he said, i think she would have been -- i would conclude she had been abducted by aliens. it does not look to be in the cards. >> host: do you feel on the campaign trail though, perhaps for hillary clinton? >> guest: she hasn't tipped her hand on that but i think it's fair to say that she and bronco
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-- barack obama are going to want to see a democrat elects and not have things they care about undone. >> host: the legacy of course. >> guest: she is a terrific fundraiser. ... her father climbing the stairs
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slowly and filing money to pay for prints and those are grandmother riding the bus and train a male colleagues promoted while she had the feeling that men had earned more money while they strayed by. barack and michelle in chicago young, married pay more towards their student loans than their mortgage. she goes on to say that as president she has seen firsthand how that doesn't change how you are. it reveals who you are. and what does being first lady reveal about michelle obama. >> guest: you are a fan i can be. in this role, we have seen so many sides of michelle obama, in which they walk with gray
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confidence in so many ways to make a difference. it gets back to the conversations about purposes as a girl growing up that she had at princeton and harvard and reflects the work she did along the way during her 20 year professional career where she is in the white house. she is trying to show herself as an example to kids about what is possible in this country that is pretty darn imperfect and where things are changing and what one person can do. i think she certainly will hope that message will be a big part of their legacy. >> what you said that michelle obama story is the story of the american dream? >> guest: i think it is safe to say that she represents an important chapter in the country's history. i think we have seen in her and the time she has inhabited great
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progress towards a world that is a little more fair. but let's keep in mind it was only a year ago that michelle obama had given a speech to commemorate the 60th anniversary of brown versus board of education. pointed out there is a long way to go. michelle obama herself that this is a country where too often the police stop someone because of the color of her skin. michelle has no aleutian buffet across the great divide. her story is part of the history and part of the progress. >> host: this is a wonderful book you've written. i know you want everyone in the world to read it. thank you in particular would you like to see that the book that might give them a better understanding not just of michelle obama, that is the american story. >> i hope the book will be read
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at a number of different levels. some people interested in michelle obama who have a terrific story to tell. i certainly hope there will be people who will read a little more deeply and see themselves in the story that reflects an important slice of our history. i hope there will people who may not have fully appreciated exactly how recently we have seen such inequality and will reflect on the kinds of things michelle obama is talking about and discussing. >> peter slevin, the book is "michelle obama: a life." thank you for being with us. >> guest: thank you. great questions and fun to talk about.
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>> tree into a comic a snob shot at camden, new jersey. >> guest: camden new jersey is usually the first city in america. it is a city that i think we sort of equate with the industrialization. it is high crime rate but more importantly for our work you think of it as one of the
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epicenters of single parenthood in the united states. >> host: you write in your book doing the best i can that three out of four babies in camden are born out of wedlock. >> guest: that is correct. >> host: what is the effect of that? >> guest: it's interesting. the spread of parented in the u.s. is the biggest of the last half of the 20th century. nobody knows what happened. nobel prize winners have failed to explain the trend. you can't explain it solely by pointing to the changing economic situation and how that has devastated cities like camden and philadelphia were generally. you have to let dion economics in order to see the cause. what is going on is not only our kids growing up with single
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parents. if you look underneath of a single parenthood means and the story where "doing the best i can," you see the rise and a highly unstable, highly complex forum where children are born into families that the adults, moms and dads come and go leaving none with no male presence in particular that continues to invest in their lives through elementary school, high school and into college. >> host: does that correlate the situation today with the economic situation? >> guest: it does. you see industrialization hits early. you know, camden is the home of rca that during campbell's soup and in philadelphia were used to think of philadelphia as the workshop of the world and really
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deindustrialization started in the region and make them funny. like a lot of places that accelerated in the 70s. so you can think of the area as a bellwether for what was about to encompass the rest of the country when it came to deindustrialization. single parenthood was spreading at the same time. very few kids in the 50s were born to single parent families. people thought it was the epidemic rate in the late 60s and 70s, especially african-americans. know about the famous moynihan report that was so controversial. at the 1990s when we explore the issue, the rate among whites were greater than the rates among blacks in the 60s. we were seeing a problem that was no longer unique to one racial in a groove.
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it was a phenomenon affecting more and more american kids. >> host: why did she move to camden? >> guest: i'm a midwesterner and midwesterners try to be humble. nobel prize winners of the most famous sociologist first time have failed to explain the trend. i thought i would have to put a little extra effort. my husband and i., my co-author in the book moved with her two small children to camden and listened in the heart of our approach was to put an ear to the ground and understand what fatherhood and parented met two people who growing up in such stark economic realities. >> host: kathryn edin, what was the lake ray johns hopkins university professor, white
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moving in to camden new jersey. for you except it? >> guest: it was interesting. people definitely have their stories about us. a couple years ago or last year when the book came out one of our dads when on the road with us. his name is joe white. he's the father of four kids in camden. had a tough time growing up and when we move to candidly called him big joe. he was 18 at the time. so the reporter asked joe you know what do you think of this white couple moving into a puerto rican and black neighborhood in camden? it just so happened we had two small children that were adopted. they said we probably wouldn't have assumed that they were sort
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of okay if we hadn't seen them carrying for these two little girls. just by accident, we didn't intend this to be part of our narrative. it certainly wasn't a fieldwork technique. but it was her adorable children who won people over. the other thing is the end time in poor neighborhoods and many people have the dream of telling their life story often so that others won't repeat the same mistakes or experience the same struggles that hard. if you come into a community and say hey i'm going to listen, i want to write your story that has tremendous resonance in the men in this book have read this book and by and large they think it is a fair capture of their
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experience in struggles and points of view. >> host: how long did you live there? >> guest: event in camden for two and half years. we were in 22 black white and latino neighborhoods in the area. the time in camden was crucial. it is very intense and broke both been a lot of our biases. the first year we lived there was one of the most violent years in camden's history. i don't think i got it until i experienced that year in camden. very early on andre green told us he was only in his mid teens when he heard the news his girlfriend was pregnant. he danced for joy and shouted thank you jesus when he heard the news. it could not grasp how anyone
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could think about an unplanned child in that way at such a young age until as andres neighbor or a literary year of camden's violent history. in fact on our block there was a heinous double murder of a vietnamese couple i new year's day that we sort of watched the police standoff because the murderer had kidnapped the couple's child and just experience a month after month of violence and fear and dark missive that community. on a personal level i began to turn a corner and towards the end of the year a young girl wrote an essay, a stop the
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violence essay contest at her local school and read about how every day she wrote it violence or shooting in her city and it hurt her and she ended the essay with the following words. put down the guns and pick up the baby. that is when i realized that his exact way what andre was doing. he was seen this baby come to life as almost a magic wand to vanquish the darkness and fear he was living with every day. >> host: from "doing the best i can," you write the conventional wisdom spun by pundits and public intellectuals across the start are blamed for significant difficulty so many children born to unwed parents face or performance in school, teen pregnancy of most school
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completion rates and difficulty securing a steady job on their father's failure to care. you say that conventional wisdom. is that true? >> guest: to be honest with you, i thought it was true. they have made that claim that the problem is fathers don't care. that probably was true. what we were stunned to find us how much of a culture change there had been this generation like men in their 30s, 40s and 50s everywhere in america this fathers have really embraced a new father eat those. in fact, there's no sense of masculinity was of masculinity was tied to the sensei could be generated engaged. this is the most surprising
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feature and it really is a cause for optimism. if this is not true, what the public policy do? it is very hard to change hearts and minds. it's easier to to capitalize on positive motivation for the good of children. we are at a moment where fathers are not performing fatherhood in the way they would like, but they got the memo that they are important and they want to be involved. so now the challenge is how to capitalize on what is positive in ways that make a difference for kids. >> host: what is exactly positive? >> guest: one problem we demonstrate intrigue by in the bottom third of the income distribution, families are more often or in by accident than design. the sad dopamine have these children that they don't have any motivation to avoid them be
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there, especially since they form this function of providing an intend since his meeting -- extensive meaning. the relationship was that of an accidental pregnancy. they get it together for the baby. one positive is man's desire gets frustrated because of a very poor coparenting relationship that followed. so they try again. another mother and another child and this puts the kids and a family go round and it's not good for anybody. capitalizing on the positive would be to say to young men in high school, make sure your children are planned. when the first child is born we
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need to adjudicate a visitation agreement when we adjudicate child-support. we need to send mom a message that it's important to keep that involves. you had a chat with this man. you and the father are in it together until that child graduates from college and beyond. so that is what i mean by emphasizing the positive. how to capitalize on fathers good intentions and get them hooked in early that prevention has to start prior to conception. they have to disrupt the accidental form of family formation that is good in the bottom third of the income distribution. >> what are the biggest obstacles you found the fathers in camden, new jersey face? >> the number one obstacle is lack of hope. that may sound vague but i think it's profound. the camden city hall attributed
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to walt whitman says without vision the people perish. the second says in a dream i saw a city invincible. of course ironic given camden's fall from an economic powerhouse to the poorest city in the nation. the reason hope is critical as all young people have to sell the essential dilemma. they have to solve the question who am i. what we don't want is a situation where the only in their to the question available to young people is to have a baby. we want a baby to flow from a plan for them to who come together and decide to take on a lifetime responsibility. what is really critical is reinserting hope into communities by camden in the philadelphia neighborhood
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pounding the street. >> host: how and abortion, of these unplanned babies? >> guest: formal adoption is a rare. and frankly there is not a market sadly for a lot of minority kids in the united states. parents don't want to see their kids raised in foster care understandably. that is some pain i love to see churches and groups engage. i would like to see a world in which every child who enters the foster system has a parent, and adoptive parents willing and able to adopt them and the birth parents not able to care for the child. that is not the case today. abortion. poor folks have more abortions than middle-class folks. that is because they've had more pregnancies and the patterns are different as well.
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middle classes much are likely to terminate a first pregnancy. a poor woman is less likely to terminate any given pregnancy but she has more so she ends up having more abortions. but she does terminate a date it is often when she's had as many children as she think she can support and on average that is to kids. americans generally have two kids whether they are rich or poor. 1.8 tonight 2.2. i may tell you one story to clarify why young women tend to carry the first child to term. one of my colleagues who helped work on data was volunteering in a program for single mum but there's been a kensington section of philadelphia. she was working with young moms and she announced to the class
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at one point that she was pregnant and the room fell silent. one of the young mothers said the doctors were wrong. several women picked up the refrain is that the doctors were wrong and what do we have realized if they had assumed she was infertile. who in their right mind would wait until 30 to have a child. similarly i also waited until 30 to adopt my first child. in a rare moment of unguarded honesty, when she found out she was having a second unplanned pregnancy she said kind of talking back a little bit. someday i will plan my babies plan my babies like you white women do. wow, that took me aback. what does she mean? we were friends, so she could
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say that to me. but what i've realized that she thought i was selfish. i had only had children when it was comfortable. i hadn't sacrificed. that is one reason why more of us should spend more time with people who are not like us. we learn a lot about ourselves. >> host: kathryn edin what about the economic circumstances these young fathers and children find themselves in. >> guest: it is not a good story. young men have a hard time attaching to the labor market. when you look at data they are not attaching stable careers until late 20s or early 30s and of course the mean age is about 22 or 23. you may have a seven to 10 year gap between when you first have
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a child and when you are stably connected to the labor market. part of that is the labor market problem. i have written elsewhere that we may be running out of work. there's also a degradation at the bottom. is almost impossible to find full-time hours if you're not skilled. anyone without a college education can be in trouble. but it is a very hard -- this economy is not working for unskilled men. they are good policy descriptions out there for dry amendment to the labor market expanding the earned income tax credit which has worked so well so we need more creatively about engaging men in work at the same time they are transitioning to family life. >> host: one of your footnotes that you recommend them don't qualify for many types of government assistance because
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they don't have custody for their children. custodial parents are eligible for housing subsidies, short-term cash welfare and generous earned income tax credits. other benefits poor men without custodial children sometimes eligible for moderate short-term cash and if it plus in-kind benefit if they work they are also eligible for smoggy i.t. -- small e. i.t. >> guest: they don't need help. if the custodial parents of kids. any system where we only help women, now we are really providing significant aid to low income moms who work. it is much as i would've gotten from the welfare system in the old days but we give in on top of salary so they can work cannot be poor. every time you have one gender
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without helping the other, you could destabilize the pair is even further. often times policymakers in a drive to be thrifty or wise say it is the mother who is most. i think that is a perilous approach and could actually do harm. we should always follow the rule of first doing no harm. we want every child in america to have two parents, two thriving parent who can be engaged, loving and supportive throughout the life cores. how do we get there? we've got to have policies that benefit madd as well as women. we are used to seeing the world where men get the goodies that women are shortchanged. in this income distribution the story is very different and the
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biases against men are strong. >> host: throughout your boat you talk about young men who have minimum-wage jobs but are not making enough so they turn to selling drugs. they turn to crime. that seems to be common. >> guest: it is a trap. a lot of young man -- it's becoming less and less common. as american cities become more peaceful, but if any case selling drugs as a stopgap measure. you get to a point in adolescent for you are struggling economically. your girlfriend is struggling anyway the guy who can provide. so usually drug selling is limited to early life cores. most young boys a shot of it fairly quickly. wants a young man learns he becomes other the first thing he wants to do is get out of the trade because he wants to be a good role model to his kids. he wants a legitimate job.
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are legitimate employment is very very strong among these men. no one says i'd rather be out dealing. it's an income strategies. if you're a drug dealer, you are a loser. you are not about anything. you fail to answer the critical question of who am i because you are the loser on the corner. men don't want that. when it comes to buying christmas presents, when it comes to seeing the eviction notice under the door, it can be very tempting. so involvement with drugs and the criminal justice system is like a low-level fever that can crop up into pneumonia at any time, but it is pervasive and
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drags them down. day laborers are at it serves that function. but it's hard to get a day laborer job. you can show up at five in the morning as many fathers do. in an effort to find work they only work two or three days a week. minimum wage minus transportation costs. sometimes i walk through my daily licensees service workers like the people i interview and i wish that i knew that everyone i interact with at union station or just out and about during the course of my day was making a living wage. that is not true. many are struggling to survive despite the ability and
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willingness to play by the rules >> host: another trend in your book is a lot of these fathers have dropped out of school before graduating. >> guest: yeah a lot of the research shows a lot of young men hoodoo dropout often do so because they can no longer do the work. fixing our schools is critical. fares also been talk about how educational institutions are sort of more female friendly than mel friendly. we've got to figure that out. one thing we don't think of is the number of young men who drop out specifically because the child is on the way and they felt they had to begin working to provide. again, helping admin
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understanding planning their families in there's benefits to doing so and this thing that will become their most precious resource is going to be more available until they wait. >> host: when you say they can't do the work, what do you mean? >> guest: they are no longer able to do the assignments. in particular it takes a leap in middle-school and into early high school and many men found they could no longer do the assignment. we've got to think about how to improve the experience of middle-school. i'm not an expert on education but this is critical. the pressure to help support the family is pretty strong. they want to help the moms out
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and they want to help their younger siblings. sometimes guys stripped away from school because they would rather be out. young people make foolish decisions. but sometimes they are the ones paying the rent. >> host: what you teach at johns hopkins? >> guest: i teach sociology and a course called the health and well-being. we discuss parents, families, neighborhoods, schools, the welfare system, criminal justice program. one thing about this work oftentimes we think our only influence on society as academics through our writing. teaching is probably the most of court and then we do. it is the students we attach
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that this is the way the influence goes on. it is next-generation. i love my teaching. >> host: does a group like this group in camden that he worked with, do they have many chances to interact with people outside their socioeconomic circle? >> guest: this is blasphemous comment. would become more presidentially segregated by income. sometimes the secret to success at the will is the people we often talk to are so isolated that we are hungry to tell their stories. they've never talked to someone like me or even remotely like me about their lives. in fact sort of an ordinary american citizen from a different place in the racial and economic structure is just
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willing to listen in to hear into record. it is the mentality of to the people we talked to. it is a little sad in a way that it would be an influence. ideally all americans -- more and more we are a divided nation. of course every time you go into in the donald's or if wal-mart or target, you are interact with the other side, but sometimes we don't value those opportunities to connect. >> host: you mentioned big show early on in this synergy. tell us how you interact it. >> guest: big joe did not have a child. we met him through an
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organization that changed his life. his mom janet, had lived a very rough life and exposed her kids to motorcycle gangs for years and a lot of hardship. they lived in westfield acres which is the most attorneys housing project in camden. it is now mostly torn down but joe was this kid who came to the organization for the free food, spaghetti dinners and the ice cream. he was really drawn in, a youth mentoring program. the staff involved while he was in high school he got his girlfriend, kim s., pregnant by accident and he quit school to provide for the child and started dealing drugs.
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so they kind of try to forge a family around the sun print earth and in this case really was his sweetheart. this is not usually the case. he got more and more into the game and she became more and more frightened by his behavior so we ended up getting mocked up and when he got out, the relationship had soured but he straightened his life for and had two beautiful little girls and a son with another woman who became his wife and is still his wife today. the strength of that on to the community organization adonai job. that relationship and has close ties, his older daughter had
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sickle cell and is particularly close to her, gave him the courage to reengage with his son and his son is now a junior in high school and the kid has been through tough times. joe is a family man who's always wanted to be. >> host: incarceration rates for this group you work with. >> guest: if you look at survey data for men with a non-marital birth which was now 42% of all births. 40% of dads at the time that children are born have 30 had a spell of incarceration. this is despite the fact on average they are only in their early to mid-20s at the time. very high probability. incarceration cannot openly admit your employment prospects it can distract her bond with your child.
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often times they are going to jail and they might've had the opportunity to watch and hear the first verse to participate in the key moments that men .204 and again as a touchstone. suddenly out of the picture for four years with no contact at all. we don't think of incarceration is an anti-family policy, but it often is. >> host: and other footnote. paul come a 34-year-old father of a for real child lives in a prison halfway house and is looking for a job. he believes today's women seemed eager to does the man altogether. all they want out of their men is their.
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>> guest: the theme of mercenary men comes up over and over again. the idea she wants me for my money she will love me when i have it and believe me when i don't. when you ask about marriage it's the only time when they talk about love and it's the beautiful love language you don't care when they talk about the courtships of their children's mother. what you've never understand is that they feel so unloved and so i'm and so unlovable they can't quite imagine finding a woman who would love them enough to stick with them giving a very hard challenges in their life. ernest green, for example tells us he wants to get married, but first has to find what he calls the insane love the kind of love where you are standing under her window in the rain
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waiting for her light to come on. so just painting a modern romeo and juliet scenario. what ernest really means is he wants to find someone he can trust you will really love him her hand and that is a central dilemma. they see women as mercenaries. women don't feel they have a lot of time for sentiment. they've got to raise this kid. they've got to make sure the kid has shoes to wear. when they transitioned to mothers, they become deeply practical and men can breathe.and away that they are being rejected.
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>> host: is there any thought of leaving inner cities without hope to go to a city that is maybe thriving? >> guest: is interesting. sometimes i wish we had the west. my relatives like sweden that they kept going west until they found the opportunity. we don't really have a blast. as you go in the united states and opportunities and maybe the dakotas which lots of folks are doing. it's pretty hard to think of where someone would go. i did have an interesting experience in camden. one of the bombs we got to know well take a trip on the greyhound to visit a relative in california and when she got back, she said i can't believe what i saw. i thought all of america was just one camden after another
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stitch together. the fact we are so isolated and that truncating peoples view of what is possible. >> host: who is on the cover of your book? >> guest: this guy is an interesting guy. we can't because the buyer regulations protecting human subjects we can't cannot the needs of the pictures. we tell the stories of the guys we told them you're not going to be in the study but you can be photographed if you would like. this is pedro, proud father to four kids. he is very involved in their lives and this little boy here is really his heart.
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he often dresses displayed in a coat with a hood with little bear ears on it and take them around the neighborhood. so he is quite a dad. he's got a fighting chance because the children's mother really wants and involved to facilitate his involvement in his life. so that is a positive sign. if you have somebody who treat you as if you have value, your ability to stay involved and the sense of your own importance grows tremendous rate, which is not usually the case. pedro is unusually lucky. >> host: what you mean irb regulation? >> guest: institutional review board. tuskegee and the federal government requires us to protect human government right.
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in this case we have to protect the anonymity of people who appear in the books very changed their names. we don't tell you to identify information about them but we are writing for a broader audience than an academic audience. they want to know the story behind the pictures. we tried to find a way of satisfying our audience while still adhering to the law. >> host: kathryn edin, if you could make one policy change. >> guest: if i could make one policy change i think what we really need -- we really need to adopt kind of a written test. a different way of thinking. in the book we call it an attitude change. we need


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